Reader Question: What Would You Do With 2 Million American Express Membership Rewards Points?

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Every week or so, I will post a reader question on the blog and ask you to write your suggestions in the comments.

After a few days, I’ll compile the responses along with my thoughts and publish it on the blog!

Reader Question

An anonymous reader (AR) writes in asking where to transfer the 2 million American Express Membership Reward points accumulated for his/her retirement travel.

American Express Membership Reward points are reward points earned on certain American Express cards and can be redeemed for, among other things,  gift cards, merchandise, and most importantly transferred to hotel and airline partners. The Points Guy has listed a nice summary of Membership Rewards transfer options.

Due to circumstances which AR would not like to make public, he/she has to transfer the 2 million Membership Rewards points to a partner hotel or airline by August 2011.

My regular advice is to keep Membership Rewards in your account until you really need to make a transfer, but that advice does NOT apply here.

Additional information on AR

  • Currently has lifetime American Airline gold elite status
  • Would like to transfer Membership Reward points to American Airlines and use miles to upgrade a paid ticket
  • Wants to travel to distant destinations such as Bali, China, Argentina, India, Russia, the South Sea Islands, and visit Africa
  • Doesn’t mind traveling in off-peak times to save miles and points
  • Uses New York LaGuardia (LGA) for domestic flights and Kennedy (JFK) or Newark (EWR) airport for international flights


1.   Where should AR transfer his/her Membership Reward points to get the most value?

2.   Should AR take advantage of the 50% transfer bonus to British Airways or Delta?

3.   What is the best transfer option if AR wants to get lifetime elite status on an airline?

4.    Does it make sense to transfer AR’s Membership Reward points to  American Airlines (converting the points first to Starwood points at a 67% discount and then to American Airlines) if it will give AR lifetime Platinum status with American Airlines?

Lifetime American Airlines platinum status will give AR a 100% mileage bonus on paid flights and 4 AA Systemwide Upgrades a year. Update:  Readers have pointed out that you get 4 System Upgrades only in the year when you qualify for lifetime Platinum status, and not in subsequent years unless you earn another million miles.

5.  What is the best way to transfer Membership Reward points into American Airlines miles?

Please help AR decide where to transfer 2 million Membership Reward points and have Big Travel with Small Money in the comments below!

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10 responses to “Reader Question: What Would You Do With 2 Million American Express Membership Rewards Points?

  1. Lifetime American Airlines platinum status will give AR a 100% mileage bonus on paid flights and 4 AA Systemwide Upgrades a year.

    Where do you get the part about 4 SWUs/eVIPs? That’s not the case according to the website.

  2. These are just my opinions on the AR’s situation.

    1. I would dump enough MR points into SPG so I can reach Lifetime Platinum status on AA. Having this status is valuable to any frequent flier or person who wants to travel a lot. With the rest of the points, I would dump it into CO/UA since BA has a high fuel surcharge and SkyTeam has a poor selection of airlines compared to OW and *A.

    2. No, as I mentioned earlier I would put it towards CO/UA. If the AR has no hotel points then I would allocate some towards SPG for Cash+Points redemptions at more expensive properties.

    3. Allocating it to AA since the OP already has Lifetime Gold status which requires 1MM. The MM is changing soon too so it’s better to have Lifetime Platinum right now before that ability to do so ends.

    4. Yes, it seems like the OP is willing to pay for travel which seems like finances isn’t a big deal so it’s perfect with Lifetime Plat. status with AA. Unless the OP is willing to pay for travelling consisting of 500K miles on *A metal, then no. Why I say this is because OZ came up with Lifetime Diamond + status which gives Lifetime *G status as well and is the easiest to reach compared to other programs. Upgrades are not easy to receive on OZ so that is the downside.

    5. From what I know right now I think SPG is the only way of transferring MR points into AA miles.

  3. I’m new to the miles game, so don’t have specific advice about how/where to transfer. But, I do have some experience flying with the SkyTeam Alliance to/within Africa. If the reader is interested in visiting Africa, Kenya is a popular (and, in my admittedly biased opinion, a “can’t miss”) destination. KLM offers a decent coach service from US hubs to Nairobi (through Amsterdam). Kenya Airways is also in the SkyTeam Alliance and they offer direct flights to Johannesburg (and Cape Town, I believe). They also offer very reasonably priced short hops from Nairobi to Lamu (the gorgeous coastal island) or Mombasa (though the reader should really consider taking the train). I’ve redeemed FF miles through Delta to fly within Africa (Nairobi–> Joburg) for only 25,000 miles, though I believe these rates are similar to those on other airlines. Just my $0.02. Enjoy your retirement!

  4. AA lifetime PLT does give you SWUs for crossing the 2MM mile threshold, but this is a one-time benefit, NOT an annual one. They won’t get additional SWUs unless they get to 3MM, or unless they earn Executive Platinum on an annual basis (there is no generally available program for lifetime EXP).

  5. With 2mm mr points, here’s what I’d do:

    If I’m within 250k of aa LP, do the spg transfer, which would cost 600k mr I think (pls check my math). If I’m more than 250k away, it gets too expensive.

    These points, once at aa, can use used to upgrade his paid fares. As an ow-s, he’ll get gratis lounge access when flying internationally, even if in y, when on ow. This will be handy later.

    Of the remaining 1.4, then it depends if this person wants to fly in front for overseas travel or is ok in y.

    The pax is based in nyc as I am, I’d move 300k over to delta if they are happy to sit in y. (600k if they want premium cabins) They’ve got a big schedule out of ny, and despite the sky peso moniker, can have decent availability at off peak times. Hit the 1.5x xfer bonus, which generates 150k or 300k extra miles.

    Move the balance to ba. Get their 1.5x bonus as well. This would be 450k bonus on a 900k xfer or 550k on the big xfer.

    Ba miles can be used for upgrades on aa now. Ba will get him to all the places he wants to go – on them and ptrs cx and jl. He should get the chase ba card (another 50k bonus) which will get him a 2-4-1 voucher for ba annually (on 30k spend) which will make those 1mm+ ba miles go even farther (for travel only on ba).

    With the bonuses offsetting the spg-aa loss, he’ll end up with more than 2mm miles and be able to go where he/she wants to.

  6. I’m a newbie, so take this with a grain of salt or two, but I thought I read that, while the FAA excise tax is not being enforced, AMEX is not charging their typical fee to transfer MR points.

    While that usually doesn’t amount to much, it very well could on 2 million MR points, so my advice would be to make up his mind and move those babies before the excise tax comes back!

  7. @MMS: I know all about LT Plat. I was saying the same thing as *swag*. You don’t get yearly eVIPs/SWUs with lifetime plat.

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